Are you on thefacebook? The College, along with 293 other schools, is part of this Web site.
Features include profiles and updatable photos, lists of favorite movies, music and books, “groups,” course lists, political views, relationship status and, of course, a list of everyone’s friends both at the College and any other facebooked school.
Five Harvard students started the Web site in February 2003 and it allows students (and alumni) to search within their schools by extended social network (friend of a friend), by classes, groups and nearly everything else listed in a profile.
Members are able to visit the listing of everyone who signs up at their school, though they are limited to seeing only the names and pictures of students at all other colleges, until they befriend them.
“Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard, had the idea last winter,” Chris Hughes, co-founder and “press guy” of thefacebook.com, said. “He wanted to combine an idea for a universal online database with an interactive social networking interface. The idea was sort of an extension of the traditional college Facebooks with terrible freshman ID photos and boring information. After a few weeks of work thefacebook was released at Harvard.”
“We hope to have as many colleges on the site as possible,” Hughes said. “Most all the information about a particular school is provided by students at the school, (but they) initially use a college’s public record of dorms and majors to build the branch of the site.”
“We never imagined it would blow up like this,” Hughes said. “We’ve definitely been surprised. At the outset, Mark was playing around with an idea for Harvard students, but now, it’s a site with over a million users at 293 schools. It’s blossomed from a product of late-night dorm-room conversations to a serious Web site.”
In order to sign up for thefacebook, you must sign up from your school e-mail address (no others are accepted), and though it’s not mandatory, most students sign up with their real names. However, there are those who choose to become other people, such as Pope John Paul II (NYU).
When asked if any unusual people had added her, Amber Ramsey, sophomore women’s and gender studies major, said, “Yes. Christina Aguilera from UNC (University of North Carolina), this strange creep named Phil and a squirrel-chaser named Jordan Kaplan.”
Once registered, it’s time to make a profile where users can share as much (or as little) information as they desire, with entries for home addresses, cell phone numbers, AIM screen names and relationship status. Choices include friendship and random play, among others.
Searching by interests is as easy as clicking on one. They are linked to an internal search engine that finds everyone at the College who has the same word or phrase in their profile. The College’s interests range from applesauce (2 matches) to music (812) to writing (165).
Of course, if students have similar interests, there are always groups to join, and anyone can start one. You could be looking for a group about the “emotional (Saved by the Bell) episode that changed a generation,” and find “Jessie Spano’s official ‘there’s never any time,’ so let’s get addicted to caffeine pills club,” which has been discovered and joined by 154 members of the College community.
There are also other groups, though they are limited to the College community. There are groups based on hometown location, such as “Central New Jersey – we DO exist!,” or a favorite staff member, such as the group “I Love the Asian Lady Who Makes the Sandwiches In Eickhoff” with 279 members.
Though it would not be easy to find a student on campus who has not yet heard of thefacebook, there are some students who consciously choose to abstain.
“I don’t see the point, it seems like such a dating-service way of making friends,” Annie Giordano, sophomore art elementary education major, said. “I’d rather meet someone and get to know them face-to-face.”
Lindsay Gelay, sophomore deaf education major, had a similar take on it. She said she would “much rather talk to someone face-to-face or on the phone.”
Not all students, however, are averse to thefacebook, as seen by the popularity of the site.
“I thought it was a cool way to make friends with other people in my building,” Nathan Kupp, sophomore electrical engineering major, said. He also started a group on thefacebook for members of his floor in Ely Hall.
Brandon Pena, junior interactive multimedia major, said that he liked thefacebook because it “helps unite college friends,” though he also admitted, “I like stalking people.” He also has a group on thefacebook, “TCNJ’s Most Beautiful.” Though part of thefacebook, some students are anti-stalking.
“It’s creepy how people you don’t know, have never met before and that you have nothing in common with add you as friends,” Christine Mansour, sophomore psychology major, said.
“Somebody I didn’t even know existed in middle school added me as a friend out of nowhere. If we weren’t friends then, why would we be friends now?” Andrew Croft, sophomore psychology major, said.
The service is addictive according to some students.
“I’m easily subject to superficial, self-absorbed networking propaganda, virtual or otherwise,” Ramsey said. “I think thefacebook brings college students ’round the nation one step closer together and one step away from graduating on time.”
Some students band together and then attempt to coerce other friends into joining.
“I have friends from Rutgers who are pressuring me to join,” Giordano said. “It’s odd because I’m being pressured by people I’m already friends with, so what’s the point?”
When asked if she would ever give in to the pressure, she said, “No, I will not allow myself to be sucked into the dark side.”